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Blackhawks Tue Jun 18 2013

Stanley Cup Final Game 3: Advantage Bruins

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png The fog which moved into Chicago Tuesday morning might be a direct result of Hawks fans fuming on their way to work amongst the cool breeze. Game 3 shifted out east to Boston Monday evening, and began with a mysterious Marian Hossa scratch, which may or may not have resulted from a puck in the face during warm-ups. It just depends on who you ask.

Either way, the Blackhawks were staring down an 0-3 performance in its previous Game 3s, a raucous TD Garden crowd, and a triple fist pump from Rene Rancourt. No worries -- that is, until, the drop of the puck.

With Hossa sitting this one out, head coach Joel Quenneville switched out for Ben Smith and started a line of Kruger-Toews-Frolik. Viktor Stålberg also got the start in place of Brandon Bollig, in an effort to gain some speed on the Hawks' fourth line.

The first period ended with no score and the Bruins outshooting the Hawks 11-10 -- a trend which would continue throughout the game. It seemed as though the Hawks were being forced to switch up their shooting strategy, not so much because defense brought on by the Bruins, but more so because of how goalie Tuukka Rask has been playing, especially after the Hawks found themselves down 2-0.

For example, Patrick Kane found himself with a pretty clear shot on net near the halfway point of the second period. Brent Seabrook set Kane up with a fantastic cross-angle pass, to which Kane, who normally fires off an immediate shot, gathered himself to do a little too much against Rask. The result was a save that landed in his mid-section. Opportunity lost.

Meanwhile, the Bruins were doing everything right after the first period, which included crisp passing and spot-on shooting at Corey Crawford during its power plays and even strength.

The two goals scored by the Bruins came, in some way, shape, or form, as a direct result of what Dave Bolland was doing (or wasn't doing). Daniel Paille was quick to react in gathering a puck, which was whiffed upon by Bolland in front of the net, and resulted in the first goal of the game. Then, it was on Bolland's crosschecking penalty, which aided in the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron's snapper off a nice pass from Jaromír Jágr in front of the net. (In all fairness, Niklas Hjalmarsson's tripping call at the end of Bolland's penalty also didn't help. That and the fact that Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews were standing around the front of the net while Jágr's pass snuck through.)

And as crazy as it may sound, and as badly as things might have looked, the Hawks only lost by two goals in what should have been a 6-0 game. Yes, that might sound overly optimistic, but if the Hawks are ever able to win a draw (they did have three in a row at one point in the third), and if they ever figure out how to score on a power play, this might be a different-looking series.

"I thought we had a real good look early, and another good look [later in the game]," said Quenneville of his team's power play performance in Game 3. "But our power play tonight was definitely, uh, not good."

If it's one thing the Hawks have done well all season, it's taking advantage of other team's mistakes. It's clear that there's an issue when asked to set something up, as in the power play, as no one appears to want to get anything started. Patrick Sharp appeared to be that guy in Game 3, but everyone else seemed to skate without any idea where to move.

Andrew Shaw did well by trying to block Rask's view, but it went for not as the Bruins' power-play kill never allowed Rask to see many shots (only four total shots off of four penalties -- not counting the barrage of penalties 12 seconds left in the game from the scrum that took place).

With that said, this Bruins team isn't like any team the Hawks faced all regular season, as well as in the Western Conference playoffs. They do in fact make mistakes, but are very quick to recover to disallow any breakaway goals to be scored, which has powered this Hawks' offense all year. The main thing the Hawks need to focus on for Game 4, maybe with a line shift that makes sense in terms of scoring depth, would be to help setup shots on which they can score.

A lot of that might come with the fact that Rask is in their heads, but they've chipped away at strong goaltending before -- including Rask in Game 1. The Hawks also have recovered from being down in a series, so this one is certainly far from over, providing they can adjust. This includes cleaning up the power play and winning more draws.

The Blackhawks still can earn a split by winning Game 4 tomorrow night, which then makes it a short best-of-three series. The Hawks will need to clear their heads in time for this to happen, just as the fog eventually will lift from the city.

 
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